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A more frugal school experience awaits students come August

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POSTED June 5, 2009 2:35 a.m.
Next year’s senior class will have a different academic experience when they return to classes in August than those from Sierra and East Union high schools who are receiving their diplomas tonight.

They will have either limited or no access to their campus libraries.

They will have a smaller list of class options.

They will have a shorter school year.

They will have larger classes and teachers on the job for two years or less will almost certainly be gone.

They may not even see all of the same teachers even if they didn’t retire or survived the final layoff notice as filling classes with students are becoming so tight that many teachers will end up being switched to a different campus to match their credentials with the need.

They could start the school year in August in one class and end up in an entirely different subject within a week or so.

If a new neighbor moves in and they attend Manteca, East Union, or Sierra high school that new teen next door could end up going to Lathrop High.

Access to counselors will be limited at best as high schools struggle with staffing cutbacks from five positions to just two.

There will be less support staff – one less vice principal, less campus monitors, less custodian staff - and less money to buy materials.

And – depending upon what happens next in Sacramento – that could be just the start of the changes.

It is all the end result of Manteca Unified trying to get control of a deficit for the 2009-10 school year that has ballooned to $32,775,000 after a series of state revenue cutbacks in the past month. Originally the deficit started out in December at $14 million and got up to over $23 million as revenues retreated. The district was close to covering the remaining gap before the latest hits took place.

Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer said he doesn’t like what’s happening in terms of cutbacks nor does the school board.

“They have a responsibility to keep the district from going bankrupt and keeping the doors open for business,” Messer said. “They take that responsibility very seriously.”

Messer said it is a given that a large number of students “will be sitting in the cafeteria” the first week of school as the reduced staff struggles to find classes for students while at the same time eliminating some classes that were already put in place.

Messer said the district simply doesn’t have the luxury of having relatively small number of students in a classroom any longer.

In a budget update sent to employees this week, Messer outlined how increased state cutbacks for the current year – that hadn’t been anticipated by anyone – effectively wiped out the $6 million in federal stimulus funds the district had hoped to put toward next year’s budget. It is now going to meet this year’s payroll as the state has essentially replaced money it was committed to provide with the federal stimulus funds.

“We will be doing things differently in Manteca Unified next year,” Messer wrote. “We will be doing things with less money, less manpower, and less time. We will continue to be governed by the lack of necessary funds, resources, and cash flow. The ability for us to meet our fiscal obligations on a monthly basis will continue to be an issue for us here in Manteca Unified.”
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